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Statement No. (1/2015) On the Inquiry of Riots of 22nd December 2014 at Latpadaungtaung Copper Mine Project in Salingyi Township

By Myanmar National Human Rights Commission  •  January 14, 2015
  1. News was received on the 22nd of December 2014, of riots between the villagers and the security forces resulting in the death of one Daw Khin Win, aged 53 years of Moe-Gyo-Pyin (middle) village, in Sagaing Region, Salingyi township, during Latpadaungtaung Copper Mine Project fencing activities. It also resulted in the injury of 11 police force personnel as well as 11 villagers. Moreover, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission received complaint letters asking the Commission to investigate into the truth of the matter.

Formation of the Inquiry team of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

  1. With regard to the above-incident, to determine whether or not there were violations of human rights, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission formed an inquiry team consisting of Commissioners U Zaw Win, Dr. Nyan Zaw and U Soe Phone Myint.

Activities of the Inquiry team

  1. The inquiry team visited Monywa and Salingyi townships from 30-12-2014 to 2-1-2015 and met with the Chief Minister of Sagaing Region, Security and Border Areas Affairs Minister, the Secretary of the Sagaing Regional Government, the Commander of the Sagaing Region Police Force and 12 members of the police. The team also met the Medical Superintendent of Sagaing Region, the Police Surgeon and Medical Specialists, the General Manager of Myanmar Investment Cooperation, the township administrator of Salingyi township, the Township Health Officer, Head of Township Police Force and 5 village members. The team gathered information and statements from them. The team visited the site of the incident on the 31st of December 2014.

Major incident during the riots on 22nd of December

  1. According to witness report, at 1 p.m on the afternoon of 22nd December, in the area within the Latpadaung Copper Project between Phaung Ta Kar village-tract of Salingyi township near Ingyin Taung, map coordinate GV-152402, Police Force No. (28) led by Police Lieutenant Htay Win, encountered 70 villagers who attacked them with slingshots and brickbats from a distance of 30 feet. Police Lieutenant Htay Win warned the villagers not to resort to violence. The villagers did not heed the warning and continued attacking the police force who took cover under their shields. Police Lieutenant Htay Win suffered a head wound. The villagers took advantage of the defensive nature of the cover and steadily approached the police force. Platoon no.(1) led by Police Second Lieutenant Kyaw Aung from the Yin Mar Bin township police reserve force approached Police Lieutenant Htay Win and party to offer reinforcements.
  1. A Platoon led by the deputy township police force commander Police Major Soe Lwin Oo also approached the force led by Police Second Lieutenant Kyaw Aung from the right side of the fence and maize fields to reinforce Police Lieutenant Htay Win and Police Second Lieutenant Kyaw Aung and party. When they reached the clearing in front of the maize fields, they were attacked from close range by about 70 villagers with brickbats and slingshots. Police Sergeant Chit Min Ko’s right eye was burst open and the police force retreated back to the maize fields. During the retreat of Police Major Soe Lwin Oo and party, the reinforcing force of Police Second Lieutenant Kyaw Aung and party were then attacked by 60 villagers from the front and sides from close range using Dahs, sticks, brickbats and slingshots. They then advanced by waving their Dahs during which Police Second Lieutenant Kyaw Aung sustained an injury to his right jaw. It was then that Police Second Lieutenant Kyaw Aung fired 10 bullets from the point 303 rifle he was carrying. Police Sergeant Ko Ko Oo also fired 6 rounds using Police Lieutenant Kyaw Aung’s rifle. Sergeant Min Min Htwe fired 4 rounds, Private Min Wai Aung 4 rounds and Private Saw Kaung Mya Oo from the Ka-Ni Police Station 3 rounds all using the same rifle. The 17 rounds that they fired were obtained from Private Min Wai Aung. They all fired into the air according to the orders of Police Second Lieutenant Kyaw Aung. The crowd only dispersed when the police force used the crowd dispersing weapons including point 303 rifle. The villagers then retreated.
  1. During the dispersal of the crowd by Police Lieutenant Kyaw Aung and party, it was not certain who was injured but when the villagers retreated, it was found out that of the 70 villagers who first attacked Police Lieutenant Htay Win and party one Daw Khin Win, aged 53 years, daughter of U Tin Maung of Moe-Gyo-Byin (middle) village died of the head wound inflicted by a bullet. While the security forces were making arrangement to pick up the body, Daw Khin Win’s brother Ko Thaung Aye picked up the body and moved the body to the house of Daw Khin Win in Moe-Gyo-Byin (middle) village by bullock cart, reaching the village at about 4:00 p.m. on the afternoon of 22nd December 2014. On the night of 23rd December, the body was carried to Salingyi township civil hospital using the coffin carrier of Salingyi township’s Free Funeral Service. The body reached Salingyi township mortuary at about 9:00 p.m. that night.
  1. Daw Khin Win was hit by a bullet while standing and not while sitting. The security police fired in a standing position in front of Daw Khin Win and the villagers. The security forces alternated between standing up and firing and then sitting down behind the cover of the shields according to the testimonial of the villagers. They were not able to ascertain which policeman fired the shot.

Death and injuries

  1. During the incident, one Police Lieutenant, two Police Second Lieutenants, one Police Sergeant, two Police Corporals, one Lance Corporal and four Privates totaling 11 in all were injured. Nine Chinese nationals from the Myanmar-Wangbao Company including a Chinese engineer and 11 villagers also suffered injuries. Among them Daw Khin Win from the Moe-Gyo-Byin (middle) village died of a headshot wound. U Mhine from Moe-Gyo-Byin (south) village and U Kyaw Myint Thein from Moe-Gyo- Byin (middle) village suffered gunshots wound and were hospitalized. One Police Sergeant suffered a burst eye. All the rest of those who were injured were discharged from the hospital before the 31st of December.

Post Mortem of Daw Khin Win

  1. The body of Daw Khin Win was carried by bullock cart to her home in Moe-Gyo-Byin (middle) village on the 22nd of December 2014. On the evening of 23rd December, the body was shifted to Salingyi township civil hospital.
  1. The body of Daw Khin Win arrived at Salingyi township civil hospital on the night of 23rd December and underwent a post mortem at about 10:30 a.m. on the morning of 24th of December 2014. The post mortem was carried out by the team led by Medical Superintendent of the Regional Hospital Dr. Nyunt Than, the Regional Police Surgeon Dr.Tin Nwe, the Salingyi township medical officer Dr. Tint Lwin and assistant medical officer Dr. Thidar Soe. After the post mortem, the body was again carried back to the house of Daw Khin Win in Moe-Gyo-Byin (middle) village and interred at Moe-Gyo-Byin (middle) village cemetery on the 25th of December.
  1. Although the body was examined by the post mortem team after a lapse of a long period nothing suspicious was noticed. The wound was not tempered with. The findings of the results of the post mortem were as follows:-

(a)       External Injuries

                        (i)        Gunshot wound measuring 20cm x 16 cm)

(ii)       The head was ripped open, starting from the right side of the temple and 7cm under the hairline. (there were no cordite burns around the wound)

(iii)      No other external injuries were detected.

(b)       Cause of death according to post mortem examination no. (1/TL/14) 24-12-2014

(i)        Fracture of the skull bone and the tearing apart of the brain together with the blood leakage both under and above the membrane of the brain was the cause of death.

The case of manslaughter filed at the Salingyi township police station

  1. At 8 p.m. on the night of 23rd December, Daw Khin Mar Aye, the sister-in-law of the deceased Daw Khin Win and Daw Mee Mee, Daw Thandar Khine, Daw Nilar Thein, U Nyan Lin from the 88 New Generation Group and media personnel numbering about 20 persons came to the Salingyi police station to file a case of manslaughter. The Salingyi police station opened a case of manslaughter under no.(4/2014). The police station then filed a medical request form and sent it to the Salingyi District Civil Hospital. On the evening of 24th December, the officer in charge of the police station together with witnesses went to the scene of incident. The clerk from the Land Records Department drew up a scaled map of the area. According to the map, Daw Khin Win died at the spot 1980 feet away from Laik Khon Taung and 924 feet from the east boundary fencing of Laik Khon Taung. This area falls within the Latpadaungtaung Project area already under Section 144 issued by the Salingyi Township General Administration Department. It was learnt that the examination of the witnesses were being continued. The post mortem had been carried out, but up to the 2nd of January 2015 there were no expert opinions as yet on the type of gun, the type of bullet and the distance from which it was fired.

The findings by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission’s Inquiry team

  1. It was learnt that Salingyi township General Administration Department in Yin Mar Bin District of Sagaing Region had issued Section 144 under the Penal Code in areas of Latpadaungtaung Copper Mine Project up till the 31st of December 2014.
  1. According to the decisions laid down at the 32nd Coordinating Meeting of the Implementation Committee on the recommendations of the report of the Latpadaungtaung Copper Mine Project Inquiry Commission, Office of the Sagaing Region Police Force drew up a Security Plan on 20th December 2014 to be carried out during the fencing of the areas that fall under the Latpadaungtaung Copper Mine Project.
  1. In the case of the villagers not heeding the warnings given by the security forces, a 7 step Plan under the Penal Code Section 127 and 128 would be carried out by the security police as follows:-

(a)       dispersal of villagers by show of force

(b)       dispersal of villagers by noise

(c)       dispersal of villagers by using water cannon

(d)       dispersal of villagers by using tear gas

(e)       dispersal of villagers by using shields and rubber truncheons

(f)        dispersal of villagers by using riots dispersal weapons

(g)       dispersal of villagers by using anti-terror weapons

  1. During the disturbances of 22nd December 2014, it was found out that although fire engines were attached to the security forces for dispersal of villagers by using water cannon, it was not carried out because the villagers were scattered. There was also only one fire engine. Dispersal by tear gas also could not be carried out because no tear gas canisters were provided.
  1. According to the Security Plan, the fencing that was carried out on the 22nd of December was 10.6 km long and it was divided into 3 parts. Simultaneous fencing was attempted but the areas to be covered were too far apart for proper scrutiny.
  1. In examining the Security Plan to be carried out part by part there were only 7 advantages and 19 disadvantages. The strength of the villagers to be confronted were not estimated village by village but only the number of leaders to be confronted was found to be taken into consideration.
  1. Although the last step to be followed in dispersal of the rioters was by using anti-terror weapons under strict supervision it was found out that a number of established steps were not carried out in accordance with the implementation plan.
  1. The Monitoring Group was not able to fully provide the necessary equipments according to the Security Plan. A number of steps were also not followed out during the dispersal of the villagers.
  1. It was also found out that instead of step by step coordinated dispersal of the villagers the security forces simultaneously used up all emergency measures.
  1. The body of Daw Khin Win was carried to her residence on the 22nd before being carried to the Salingyi township Civil Hospital on the 23rd of December.
  1. According to the testimonies of the villagers it was found that Daw Khin Win was hit while in a standing position and not while sitting. Security forces were directly in front of Daw Khin Win and while one group fired the rifles from the standing position, the other group was sitting down and alternately when the first group sat down, the other group stood up and fired.
  1. The security forces also stated that the villagers carried sticks, Dahs, slingshots, sickles and Jingalis and fired upon them with Jingalis and slingshots. The shields were also knocked upon with Dahs. Moreover as the villagers advanced waving their Dahs, the security forces fired shots in the air to warn and frighten the villagers.

Conclusion by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

  1. It can be concluded that the security forces and the villagers were so close to each other that the security plan could not be carried out step by step as the villagers and security forces were within grappling distance of each other.
  1. Due to weakness in the supervision of the Monitoring body the security forces were not able to use the water cannon and tear gas to disperse the villagers according to the plan, resulting in injuries to both sides.
  1. It can also be concluded that the police personnel’s failure to use anti-terror weapons according to the disciplines laid down under the Plan led to unnecessary injuries.
  1. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. The death of Daw Khin Win by gunshot can be construed as an infringement of her rights as stated under Article 3.
  2. The team also came to the conclusion that the validity of the statements by both sides should be determined according to law.

Recommendations of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

  1. The case filed under manslaughter case no. (4/2014) at the Salingyi police station should be further pursued according to law.
  1. As there was dereliction in the supervision of the implementation of the Plan drawn up by the Office of the Sagaing Region Police Force concerning the security during the fencing of the Copper Mine Project, all responsible personnel of the Monitoring body should be investigated and due action taken against them.
  1. As there was dereliction in the implementation of the Plan drawn up by the Office of the Sagaing Region Police Force concerning the security during the fencing of the Copper Mine Project, all responsible police personnel should have action taken against them in accordance with the discipline law of Myanmar Police Force.
  1. The implementation of the security activities regarding the Latpadaungtaung Copper Project should be thoroughly reviewed to prevent loss and damages of this kind from occurring again.
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This post is in: NHRC Monitor

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